Sunday, February 17, 2008

Revisionist History is a Dangerous Thing

At Berra Museum, the Display of Clemens' Jersey Is Over
By Richard Sandomir, story reproduced below)

OK, let me preface this by revealing my bias. I am an avid Red Sox fan. From 1984 to 1996, I was a Clemens fan. However, his seasons with the Yankees and his declaration that he would refuse to be inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing a Sox jersey have long since soiled his reputation in my eyes.

Despite my personal dislike for the Rocket, however, it's hard to deny his career stats. In a sense, that's what the Yogi Berra Museum is trying to do here. In the article, the museum's director says that they decided to remove Clemens' jersey from the exhibit because kids were asking questions they weren't prepared to answer. Now, I may be new to the museum profession, but isn't that the purpose of public history institutions - to answer important questions for the public?

The director also says that the museum does have an educational component which deals with steroids, which he feels is the "proper context" for the issue. While it's very good that the museum has incorporated that element into its interpretation, I still feel that removing Clemens' jersey altogether is a poor way to handle the question of his having (or not having) taken steroids.

The erasure of Roger Clemens' presence in an exhibit on the mid-1990s through 2000 Yankees is a clear omission now. What concerns me even more is what later generations will see. All history, particularly public history, is influenced by bias. However, the conscious extraction of a central figure in this period of Yankee history (as much as I try to avoid thinking about Yankee history) is akin to the removal of radical persons from Soviet-era photographs. No matter how you sell it, it's revisionist history and it's a slippery slope.

Read the article below and form your own opinion:

"The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center last week removed a Roger Clemens jersey from an exhibit about the Yankee renaissance that started in the mid-1990s.

“We’re trying to project the positive virtues of baseball,” said David Kaplan, the director of the museum, which has an educational mission. “And we have a lot of kids coming through here who are asking questions we’re not prepared to answer.” He added that Clemens’s “jersey was raising too many issues” because of his “notoriety.”

Clemens is defending himself against accusations by his former personal trainer Brian McNamee that McNamee injected him with steroids and human growth hormone. Clemens and McNamee testified Wednesday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Kaplan said that he and Art Berke, the chief operating officer of the museum, which is on the campus of Montclair State University in Little Falls, N.J., decided to remove the jersey.

Berra, the living embodiment of Yankees success starting in the late 1940s, was later made aware of the decision.

The museum obtained official game jerseys of Clemens, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera from the Yankees in 2003 to use as representations of three high-profile players who were on the team during its run of four World Series championships in five years.

Kaplan said Clemens’s jersey would not be reintroduced even if he was exonerated because the exhibit now features two of the players, Jeter and Rivera, who played for the team throughout the title run. Clemens’s first tenure with the Yankees, from 1999 to 2003, coincided with two of the four championships. Clemens returned to the Yankees last season.

Without Clemens’s jersey, Kaplan said, “it’s more accurate, to be honest.” He added, “We felt we just wanted to celebrate the guys who were there from the beginning.”

Clemens’s jersey is in storage at the museum. Kaplan said he expected the museum to return it to the Yankees. “It’s been on indefinite loan to us,” he said.

Although the exhibits are geared heavily toward Berra and the Yankees, the museum is devoted to using sports to elevate academic achievement and sportsmanship.

One of its educational series, which is offered at the museum and at schools, involves an examination of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

“We don’t avoid the subject, but we do it in the proper context,” Kaplan said.

Berra and Clemens have been friendly over the years. Clemens has played in Berra’s golf tournament, which benefits the museum, and he participated in a panel discussion about great pitchers."